The iPad started shipping in April, and since then it has basically had the tablet market to itself. Literally, in the six months after the iPad’s release, it didn’t have a single direct competitor. Dell launched the Streak shortly after the iPad, but the Streak was a 5” unit that was significantly smaller than the iPad. In the 7-11” tablet market, Apple has been the only real player.

But that all changed when Samsung launched its 7” Galaxy Tab last month. It’s available for $599 off contract on all four major American carriers and US Cellular ($399 on a two year contract with Sprint or US Cellular, $349 for T-Mobile), with a $499 WiFi-only model on the way. If those pricepoints sound familiar, it’s because the unsubsidized prices are right on top of the 16GB iPad. I’m betting that’s not coincidental; it’s pretty clear what Samsung was targeting when they priced the Tab.

The Tab is the first Android slate to come from a major manufacturer, and probably will be the last one to release with Froyo. The rest (Dell’s 7” Looking Glass tablet, the Motorola tablet showed off in Google’s D: Dive Into Mobile press conference, and rumored devices from HTC, Acer, Asus, and others) appear to be releasing with Honeycomb in the early part of next year. Samsung says that the Galaxy Tab will be updated to Gingerbread at some point in the future, along with Honeycomb whenever that releases. But we’ll get to the software in a moment, let’s talk hardware first.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Physical Comparison
  Samsung Galaxy Tab Apple iPad Motorola Droid X HTC EVO 4G Samsung Galaxy S Fascinate
Height 190.1 mm (7.48") 248.2 mm (9.6") 127.5 mm (5.02") 121.9 mm (4.8") 125 mm (4.92")
Width 120.5 mm (4.74") 189.7 mm (7.5") 66.5 mm (2.62") 66.0 mm (2.6") 63.5 mm (2.5")
Depth 12.0 mm ( 0.47") 13.4 mm (0.5") 9.9 mm (0.39") 12.7 mm (0.5") 9.91 mm (0.39")
Weight 380 g (13.4 oz) 680 g (24.0 oz) 155 g (5.47 oz) 170 g (6.9 oz) 117 grams (4.16 oz)
CPU 1 GHz Samsung Hummingbird Apple A4 @ 1GHz TI OMAP 3630 @ 1GHz Qualcomm Scorpion @ 1GHz 1 GHz Samsung Hummingbird
GPU PowerVR SGX 540 PowerVR SGX 535 PowerVR SGX 530 Adreno 200 PowerVR SGX 540
NAND 16GB or 32GB integrated 16GB integrated 8GB micro SD 8GB micro SD 2 GB, 16 GB microSD (Class 2)
Camera 3.2MP with LED Flash + Front Facing Camera None 8MP with dual LED Flash 8MP with dual LED Flash + Front Facing Camera 5 MP with auto focus and LED flash
Screen 7.0" 1024 x 600 LCD 9.7" 1024 x 768 IPS 4.3" 480 x 854 4.3" 480 x 800 4. 0" 800 x 480 Super AMOLED
Battery Integrated 14.8Whr Integrated 25 Whr Removable 5.698 Whr Removable 5.5Whr Removable 5.55 Whr

On paper, the Galaxy Tab is essentially a jumbo-sized implementation of the Galaxy S smartphone platform. You’re looking at the same A8-based 1 GHz Hummingbird processor and PowerVR SGX 540 graphics chip, the same 512MB RAM, the same lightweight plastic build, and pretty similar industrial design. The screen has been upsized, from the 4” WVGA unit in the Galaxy S to a 7” WSVGA panel, but it’s not a Super AMOLED display like on the smartphones. You lose a couple of megapixels and HD video recording capability on the rear-facing camera, but the Galaxy Tab does get a 1.3MP front facing camera for video calling.

The design is rather minimalistic, with the front having a small bezel around the screen and four capacitive touch buttons underneath the screen. Since we’re on the topic, I’d like to voice my annoyance that the touch buttons are always in different orders. HTC and Samsung use different layouts, Motorola uses two different layouts for no explicable reason, and Google has specced both of its Nexus phones with layouts that are not normally used by their manufacturers. The lack of standardization isn’t a huge problem, but it can get annoying if you switch between multiple Android devices on a daily basis.

The top view of the Galaxy Tab, iPad, and Vewsonic G Tablet (top-bottom)

Anyways, back to the industrial design. The sides are matte black, with the headphone jack at the top, dock connector and speakers at the bottom, mic on the left side, and the power and volume buttons and the covered microSD card slot on the right side. The back is glossy and dotted in the same way as the Fascinate and Vibrant. Unfortunately, the Galaxy Tab’s back panel is non-removable, so you can’t swap out the battery. Compared to the iPad, the overall feel is a bit less high end, mostly due to the use of glossy plastic instead of the aluminum unibody. But overall, the ID is very straightforward, leading to a clean and elegant device.

When you pick it up, the Galaxy Tab feels light, almost shockingly so. Given that it’s half the size of the iPad and just over half the weight, this first impression isn’t exactly unfounded. Given the lightness, the feeling of solidity is actually surprising if you’re expecting something along the lines of the Galaxy S phones - compared to the ultralight Fascinate/Captivate/Vibrant/Focus, the Tab feels significantly more substantial. The overall build quality definitely exceeded my expectations, though the unibody aluminum shell puts the iPad on a different level.

Samsung Galaxy Tab - Oh, That Screen
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  • Shadowmaster625 - Monday, December 27, 2010 - link

    I dont get what is wrong with these people. This is even worse than apple. How is this any better than an iPod touch, which costs less anyway?
  • nycmetroconsumer - Monday, December 27, 2010 - link

    i have a t mobile galaxy tab, paid full price contract. it has wifi and broadband, that was the only version available at the time, bought from amazon about 3 or 4 weeks ago. I have not picked it up and used it in 2 weeks due to t mobile BS crippling. I probably spent a total of 2 hours messing with it and when i found out that i needed to spend $$broadband money in the form of a prepaid broadband card to use about all of its features, including registering my email accounts. i have started packing it away for the return to amazon. i cant say much about it, since i refused to activate the broadband sim card that came preinstalled, knowing i would probably get a restocking fee or some BS if i needed to return it. i could only use it on the only Wi-fi function that were not crippled, the proprietary browser, Which sucked. Last week i verified with T-mobile that this mandatory broadband service was the only way i could use the boradband/wi-fi no contract , full price , $700 with tax, Samsung Galaxy Tab. It took me quite a few calls before i finally got a department that verified i had to use broadband even when wi-fi was available. So back to Amazon it will go.
    i had used the ipad, which was great , fantastic response on the touch screen, easy and intuitive, and that was all on wi-fi. The only reason i still have the Galaxy Tab , i was hoping t mobile would realize that they made a mistake and either provide me with a free broadband card to register the device, or change their network to allow wi-fi full capability. This galaxy tab is set up like charging prepaid cellphone users minutes to call 611, and spend a hour and $$ while they send you around the t mobile departments. i am a t mobile pre paid user , with a wifi nokia , and i do not pay to dial 611 and i can use my wifi at any location. The only reason i didn't get an ipad was i liked the open source of android, i don't see how they are allowed to cripple android devices. They should not be allowed to use open source, yet cripple its features to make money.
    All the American carriers crippled the voice capacities of the samsung tab, in Europe they can all make voice calls with the Galaxy Tab. IMO this is a anti trust violation, however the FCC has been bought out by these corporations after the AT&T forced breakup in 1983. for those that don't know the AT&T breakup, which was the biggest monopoly in the USA was broken up due to a case where they would not let a customer use their own answering machine, in those days an answering machine was huge and cost around $900. AT&T forced the customer to rent all their telco equipment , no -one was allowed to hook up non Western electric manufactured equipment to the telephone lines. Western electric was the manufacturing and central office installation division of all telco equipment. I worked for AT&T long lines and was divested to new york tel.
  • dmjazzijeff - Tuesday, December 28, 2010 - link

    Nice review, Vivek. Do you think the Tab is worth the price in its current configuration, with the proviso that I'm not really looking for anything more than a really portable MID? I have a 32GB 3G iPad and I like it very much, but it's a little too large to use comfortably while out and about. I'm looking for something larger than my iPhone, but perhaps not as large as the iPad. I hate carrier subs so I'd be looking at getting one off-contract. I don't really need to be able to put the number (or type) of apps that I've got installed on my iPad on it; just really looking for something with a decent web browser and email client that's easy to carry and use while on public transportation and such.
  • JumpingJack - Friday, December 31, 2010 - link

    First, thanks for the review, I basically agree with the assessment overall.

    I did find a Galaxy Tab on the display floor recently and spent a fair bit of time checking it out. Right around the corner was the iPad. My, obviously subjective, opinion is that the iPad is an order of magnitude better overall.

    It really came down to responsiveness. The galaxy tab seemed very sluggish overall, video's chopped a bit here and there, and the screen transistions were delayed. Scrolling was not smooth and the overall experince was just better on the iPad (I own neither BTW).

    Apple will likely dominate the tablet space for many more moons.
  • digitalicecream - Sunday, January 2, 2011 - link

    I purchased the nook color last month and rooted it. Now that Froyo is confirmed for it this month it will go from being a cool reader/hacked tablet to an actual tablet (hopefully with market support)

    Still, it doesnt have bluetooth, vibe, camera, or microphone... but I already have that on my Incredible and I really dont want to duplicate my efforts.

    7" screen Angry birds with pinch and zoom and multitouch? for $250 no contract? Heck yeah!!
  • CyberAngel - Tuesday, January 4, 2011 - link

    USA models doesn't have it?
    This is the most stupid thing ever!
    Why would anyine buy any smaller tablets in the US is beyound me
    but when I tried G Tab on a huge store in Helsinki
    I just barely fitted into my suit pocket but was not too heavy
    To be able to browse using the display of 1024 pixels (sideways) is great!
    Combine this with a BT headset and also make calls (and receive them)
    About the camera: very dissappointing compared especially to Nokia N8
    which currently has the best camera

    Now I'm waiting for dual-core LTE models (maybe also dual-SIM)
    ACER seems to have a nice 7" Tab coming.
    I hope it's not wide because I want it into my pocket
    My Tab is going to replace my Nokia 7110 (90-series) touch phone
    which is already about six years old
  • Deepthi - Tuesday, November 1, 2011 - link

    Just put in.simple words. Apple =limitation. Restrictions. Galaxy tab with android = unlimitation, open source , custom roms ! Freedom. So yeah i choose freedom over a 'famous mob recognized' brand name, coz following crowd mentality doesnt make me love what is true for me which i absolutely enjoy tab!! i chose it over ipad ;)

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